Saturday, September 27, 2008

Important Academic and Life Concerning Announcement:

Today (Sunday, September 28, 2008)
is the first day in
that I don't have to
grade a

I feel a breath of life returning; let the 24 hour celebration begin before receiving more papers on Monday!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What am I Doing on a Saturday Night?

Ladies, we've been tagged.

Tina at The Bigger They Get (who is, by the way, the top Google result for ["George Clooney" "chocolate pants"]) got us. She says, "Okay, I’m going to tag some of my favorite academic chickies who need to do something unrelated to things like composition and rhetoric and literature and literary criticism and textual theory and thinking up assignments and grading papers and attending classes and, and, and…well, they NEED a distraction. So, Lady Audley, Rhetorical Twist, Teacher Poet and DocHoc, spill…" The rules:

Meme Terms and Conditions
  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Mention the rules on your blog.
  3. List six unspectacular things about you. [As if there's *anything* about us that isn't spectacular...].
  4. Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.
So, six unspectacular things about Lady Audley:

1. My favorite bookmark at the moment is a small piece of paper with the William Carlos Williams poem, "This is just to say" on it.

2. I have bed sheets with fish on them, which I love because they remind me of Mrs. Dalloway: "For this is the truth about our soul, he thought, our self, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-wrinkled waves; that is, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping" (p.161, Harvest Books 1990 edition).

3. I am a sucker for steampunk. Like these guys:

And this.

4. I know I'm an English nerd, but I really like geometry.

5. The first book I remembering thinking of as my favorite was The Neverending Story.

6. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a footnote give away a plot point. Things like, "the author's use of water images foreshadows [character's] drowning."

And I'm tagging whichever of our readers feels so inclined. (Leave a comment with a link to your blog, or post your answers as a comment).

Thinking is not part of your DNA...or is it?

Are you a born conservative (or liberal)?
A new study suggests that your political attitudes are wired in from the beginning.
By Denise Gellene, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 19, 2008
Oh, please! I'm just thankful the end of the article pointed out how one could make a case for interpreting fear as making one pro/con gun control. Otherwise, I would be very disappointed with the Los Angeles Times.

Sneaky Little Rights Violations

I am well aware that universities work in weird ways. However, I got this e-mail a few days ago, and I am pretty sure there are some constitutional rights violations going on. I'm horrified. Now, I know they have sneaky ways of getting around inconsequential things like constitutional rights (ie: like the way my dear alma mater did when certain fundamentalists came to town), but this irks me.

The text of the e-mail, followed by my questions (demarcated by dashes):


Prohibited Political Activity :
Upcoming elections and how this impacts you as an employee

Tuesday, November 4, 2008, is the 2008 Presidential Election. There will be many activities on campus and nationwide related to the election over the coming months. So, it is important that as an employee of the [Cornfield Univ.], you are aware of the elements of the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act that may impact your participation. First and foremost, the law is not intended to hinder or in any way violate your individual freedoms. In fact, the activities defined as "prohibited" per the law are only prohibited while employees are on University time or using University resources or property. If the appropriate benefit time is charged and the activities do not take place on University property, it is permissible for you, while representing yourself individually (not as a University employee), to become involved in such events.
The concept of prohibited political activity is challenging to fully define, so it is always a good idea to consult with the University Ethics Office if you are unsure

Some of the main categories of commonly occurring prohibited political activity are explained below. Remember, these are things employees can not do while working, when on University property, while using University resources (e.g., phone, fax, paper, email, etc.), or when acting as a representative of the University; but they are things that can take place if the appropriate benefit time is used and University property and resources are not involved:

  • Preparing for or participating in any rally or event related to a specific political candidate, party, or referendum - this includes preparation and circulation of campaign materials, petitions, or literature
  • Soliciting contributions or votes on behalf of a particular political party or candidate
  • Assisting at the polls on behalf of any political party, candidate, or organization
  • Surveying or conducting an opinion poll related to anticipating an election outcome, or participating in a recount challenge related to an election outcome
  • Running for political office

The law isn't always as clear as we'd like, so here are a few specific examples to better define what is and what is not considered prohibited political activity (can't be performed on University time without appropriate benefit usage; and never on University property or using University resources):

Prohibited Political Activity
Acceptable Political Activity
Wearing a pin or t-shirt in support of the Democratic Party or Republican Party, or a Democratic/Republican candidate vote pin/buttonWearing a pin encouraging others to vote that is not specific to any particular party or candidate
A supervisor requiring an employee to engage in political activity outside of work
An employee independently choosing to engage in political activities outside of work
Distributing, producing, or posting flyers or other campaign literature on campus during lunch or break time
Distributing, producing, or posting flyers or other campaign literature at an off-campus location during lunch or break time
Registering employees to vote in a booth that is clearly designated to one political party or candidate

Registering employees to vote while on their lunch or other designated breaks in a party-neutral booth

Specific examples of things that are expressly prohibited include:

  • Placing a collection jar on your desk or even in a break room to solicit funds for a specific political candidate or party
  • Attending a rally on University property specific to a political candidate or party - regardless of whether or not you are on University time

The University Ethics Office can not and does not intend to police each of the campuses for political buttons, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. Instead, we ask that employees educate themselves and become aware of their responsibilities to the law as it relates to employment with [Cornfield University]. Knowing the various aspects of the prohibited political activities section of the Ethics Act will simply assist you in acting in a manner that is consistent with the law.


All righty. I understand why it is unethical to use university resources available to you as an employee, or why it would be unethical to use the time they are paying you for to further your own political affiliations. HOWEVER, the fact that you cannot, at any time, engage in political activity on campus cannot be legal (wait, wait. Who am I kidding? Anything is legal under this administration). What I gather from this is that if you are an employee of the university (and guess who falls under this category? Moi) you may not ever, at any time, engage in political activity. That. Is. Out. Rageous. I am going to get in SO much trouble during my time here. So much.

Thoughts? I cannot be much more coherent than this because I am utterly flabbergasted. Rendered speechless.

I wonder if this applies to elections only, or all political activity? 'Cause if it's all, they should just fire me now...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Fun" Reading and the Other Kind

Mama Audley and I have had this conversation many times. I tell her what I'm reading (Victorian novels, theory, philosophy, history), and she asks, "but what are you reading for fun?"

Then I irritate her by deliberately misinterpreting the question and saying, "this stuff is fun!"

But I know what she means: what am I reading simply for pleasure, deliberately resting my critical eye (insofar as it's possible) to just enjoying a book? Not for what I get out of it or what it says about its time or how I can teach/write about it, but just for its own sake. And when life gets busy and I feel like I'm constantly reading something for a reason or a goal, the answer is, too often, "not much," or "nothing."

So, earlier this week, in the middle of five projects that felt like fifteen, in the middle of constant and severe multi-tasking (the kind where you feel guilty for not working on three things at once), in the middle of citations and theory and archives and periodicals (all of which I love and enjoy, by the way), I turned off my computer one night, made myself a cup of tea, and read for fun.

My go-to book that evening (which is actually not mine, but was "borrowed" before I moved from Mama Audley's friend {and drinking buddy} Military Mom) was The Standard Book of British and American Verse, 1952, because it contains this poem:

When You Are Old and Grey, W B Yeats

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

On nights like that one I read it to myself, sometimes out loud and sometimes in my head, and the more I read it the more it sounds like music, and the more peaceful my mind becomes. Soon I'm not thinking about my to-do list or my what's-due list. I'm thinking about how beautiful those words are. Sometimes I read some of my other favorites, or I recite one of the handful I've memorized and so always have with me, but I always come back to this one. I could probably articulate why, but the point is, I don't have to. Because this, Mama Audley, is what I'm reading for fun.

So, my crazy, busy, book-loving friends. What are you reading for fun?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Duh Duh DUHHHH!: The Research Paper!

Dear teachers (old, new, and not yet practicing),

In a few weeks, my composition class will be embarking on the BIG research paper adventure. I'm not looking forward to it, if only because I have to re-learn how to teach them all the steps of the thing, which is something that I have internalized.

That aside, I am seeking some advice in terms of their topic. I want to give them the freedom to write about something that matters to them so that the paper is more than an fruitless exercise, but I don't want the topic to be too broad (ie: "write about whatever you want!") Therefore, I am seeking general topics that will allow for a variety of subtopics. One example is "education." That narrows the focus a little bit, but it allows them to pick something within education that matters to them.

Thoughts? Other suggestions for similarly broad, yet not too broad, topics?

Yours sincerely,
Rhetorical Twist

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just Call Me "The Liberator"

I had the first student come to talk to me about revisions on his first paper. After talking about his essay, he had to ask me one, final question:

"So, uh, do we need to have an intro, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion? 'Cause, like, I didn't know what to put in the third paragraph."
"Well," I said, "you do need an intro and a conclusion, but you can use as many paragraphs as you need."
He looks at me suspiciously. "Really?"
"Really," I said. "If you need 2, use 2. If you need 4, use 4."
"But I thought..."
"You thought wrong."
"Um, okay. So, as many paragraphs as I need?"
"Yes, liberating, isn't it?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Serving Your Country Linkapalooza

This awesome blog has listed voter registration deadlines for every state, with links (via).

Why students are finding it difficult to vote.

Feministing calls out Republicans for trying to block foreclosure victims from voting.

Journalism or entertainment? The media's election "coverage" (via).

John "I-Was-A-Prisoner-Of-War" McCain doesn't have a position on helping veterans register to vote.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thought of the Day

Worksheets are environmentally unfriendly tactile evidence of students' "work" (not to be confused with learning) that is, in turn, offered up to the gods (by the demi-gods) for appeasement.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lesson Planning While Drunk.

I learned an important lesson today. Mixing allergy medicine with lack of that wonderful rejuvenating fluid we call water can yield disastrous results! And caffeine does not remedy the situation. Oh, no. It certainly doesn't.

Here's what happened. I got a little busy, you know? I may have skipped lunch to talk about the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis with Dr. Coffee Beans. Okay, I did skip lunch. I generally neglected to drink any fluids throughout the day. I made it home just fine (because my empty stomach kept me focused on getting myself to the dinner table). Approximately two minutes after the table was cleared, however, I crashed.

As in, didn't even make it through the first of four readings. I simply had to read the short stories and write a lesson plan that would apply Fretag's Pyramid. Remember that plot outline? Set up, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution? Apparently that's Gustav Fretag's organizational skills. Suffice to say I did not get so far as the rising action of the first reading. Um, yea.

Took an hour nap and woke up worse than before it. So much for a power nap, eh? Then finished the first reading and tried to make it into the second but found myself nodding off by the first paragraph. And, let me just add, the reading is interesting! Took another nap and woke up feeling like I downed two bottles of night time Nyquil.

In other words, it feels like someone stuffed a pillow in my brain. Additionally, two Serta counting sheep have claimed my eyelids and have bedded down on them, forcing my eyes shut. I have a feeling you could tell me that there had been a terrible mistake and my entire family had died and all I would be able to manage as a reply was, "Mm? I just wanna sleep five more minutes, Mommy...five more...zzzz."

Rhetorical Twist, this was just a dramatization. I promise I will drink lots of water tomorrow and eat a healthy lunch. No worries.

Academic Standards: Students, there won't be a test on this. Use your No. 2 pencil to write the following on your SCANTRON, "In case of fire, throw this in."

Visual learning aid to help illustrate my productivity level today:

Sunday, September 7, 2008

They Call Me "Freeway Flyer"

The life of a traveling adjunct.

Let's Do a Little Rhetorical Analysis, Shall We?

I received the following chart in an e-mail. The person who sent it e-mailed it to a group of people saying, "here's a great chart that will give you all the straight facts on the issues." Read the chart. Who do you think the creator of this chart favors?

E-mail text:

This is a really neat comparison table that someone took the time to create - but really shows GOOD comparison to the candidates and what they stand for and the web sites do substantiate their platforms

We all need educated discernment for this election





Favors new drilling offshore US



Will appoint judges who interpret the law not make it



Served in the US Armed Forces



Amount of time served in the US Senate


173 DAYS

Will institute a socialized national health care plan



Supports abortion throughout the pregnancy



Would pull troops out of Iraq immediately



Supports gun ownership rights



Supports homosexual marriage



Proposed programs will mean a huge tax increase



Voted for making English the official language



Voted to give Social Security benefits to illegals





0% on home sales up to $500,000 per home (couples). McCain does not propose any change in existing home sales income tax.


28% on profit from ALL home sales. (How does this affect you? If you sell your home and make a profit, you will pay 28% of your gain on taxes. If you are heading toward retirement and would like to down-size your home or move into a retirement community, 28% of the money you make from your home will go to taxes. This proposal will adversely affect the elderly who are counting on the income from their homes as part of their retirement income.)



15% (no change)


39.6% - (How will this affect you? If you have any money invested in stock market, IRA, mutual funds, college funds, life insurance, retirement accounts, or anything that pays or reinvests dividends, you will now be paying nearly 40% of the money earned on taxes if Obama becomes president. The experts predict that 'Higher tax rates on dividends and capital gains would crash the stock market, yet do absolutely nothing to cut the deficit.')



(no changes)

Single making 30K - tax $4,500
Single making 50K - tax $12,500
Single making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 60K- tax $9,000
Married making 75K - tax $18,750
Married making 125K - tax $31,250

OBAMA (reversion to pre-Bush tax cuts)

Single making 30K - tax $8,400
Single making 50K -=2 0tax $14,000
Single making 75K - tax $23,250
Married making 60K - tax $16,800
Married making 75K - tax $21,000
Married making 125K - tax $38 ,750
Under Obama, your taxes could almost double!



- 0% (No change,20Bush repealed this tax)


Restore the inheritance tax

Many families have lost businesses, farms, ranches, and homes that have been in their families for generations because they could not afford the inheritance tax.


New government taxes proposed on homes that are more than 2400 square feet. New gasoline taxes (as if gas weren't high enough already) New taxes on natural resources consumption (heating gas, water, electricity) New taxes on retirement accounts, and last but not least....New taxes to pay for socialized medicine so we can receive the same level of medical care as other third-world countries!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rules for New Teachers

Or, "Rules for Short, Young Looking Teachers." Coming, of course, from exactly one week of teaching experience.

Rule #1: Use the Fear They Came With

After months of going back and forth between what my students should call me, I decided to go with my first name for several reasons:
1. My personal pedagogy really does dictate it.
2. They are more scared than I am
3. Since they are more scared than I am, one more barrier isn't necessary.
Thus, Rhetorical it is.
The school system has already sufficiently pounded them into submission, so use that natural fear if you have first time teacher concerns. Sure, it may go against your personal feminist philosophy, but damn, it sure helps you get through that first week! (Besides, being called "Ms. Twist" made my insides curl...)

Rule #2: Get a Killer Outfit

If you are scared out of your mind about teaching, you need The Killer Outfit. Put your well honed visual rhetoric skills to work: gray dress slacks, a black button down shirt, heels, and pearls (not real pearls, mind you, but they get the job done). This creates "instant teacher," otherwise known as: "I am older than you, despite external signifiers that may indicate otherwise." There is something super official sounding about high heels clicking on those wooden floors. To complete the persona, perfect the jingle of keys in your hands that indicates, "I have an office," and the stride. To maximize the official sounding click from those high heels, you have to get the pacing right. It can't be too hurried, nor too leisurely. It has to be just right and clearly convey, "I've got heels on. Fear me 'cause I'm all kinds of official."

Rule #3: Learn the Proper Facial Expressions

No matter how huge that silence is in your class, never let the very casual, "I've done this SO many times before" look come off your your face. This can be really difficult if you walk into class 10 minutes early to set up and they are completely silent, just STARING at you, even after saying, "you guys can keep chatting you know." Silence. "Or not." It will be the 10 bloody longest minutes of your life, but don't break.

Rule #4: Lie your ass off

For the nervous first time teacher, a few well placed indicators that you've taught before, or you're older than you look, can be helpful. Practice phrases such as these:
~"I had a student once..."
~"When I was an undergrad (of course, that was back in the day)..."
~"I've been studying English longer than I care to admit"
~"I'm going to try something that I haven't previously attempted in my other classes..."

Yeah, you are lying, but it does make you giggle a little on the inside.